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21 Expert Crappie Fishing Tips for Every Season: Adjusting Your Strategy for Success

Ask any angler which gamefish they most enjoy going after, and more often than not they’ll say “crappie.” Despite their light weight, crappie put up a good fight and make for good eating. Happily, there is no shortage of crappie fishing tips for anglers of every skill level.

One of the things that make crappie so popular is that they can be reeled in at any time of the year. Read on for some crappie fishing tips that should improve your catch no matter when you’re able to go fishing.

crappie fishing tips

Crappie Fishing Tips for Spring

Spring is spawning time for crappie, and their increased activity means increased opportunities for catching your limit. There are, however, some specific strategies that will boost your ability to bring in crappie, particularly during the early spring.

1. Pay Attention to Water Temperature

While the spring spawn is a great time to catch crappie as they move from deeper water toward the shoreline, you can boost your chances for success by following one of the best crappie fishing tips and knowing the water temperature.

No matter what the calendar says, crappie won’t enter the spawn until the water temperature is in the 60s in Fahrenheit degrees. You can routinely find daily water temperatures for major bodies of water online, or you can invest in a commercially available water thermometer.

2. Start Fishing in Shallow Water

You need not venture too far out to have great success in springtime crappie fishing, since they’ll be spending their time in shallow water. But if that doesn’t work out, one of the great crappie fishing tips for spring is to find cover — submerged vegetation, rock outcroppings and the like — to try your luck.

3. Try Spawning Areas

Obviously, some of the best areas for crappie fishing during the spring are places where they are likely to be spawning. If you’re looking for some of the best crappie fishing tips for spring, try casting your line around boat docks, brush piles, and among lily pads.

Understand, though, that you might have to try different depths in each of those areas to pinpoint the best concentrations of crappie.

4. When Not to Fish For Crappie in Spring

At least in the early part of the spring, you really shouldn’t bother fishing for crappie in the morning or evening. That’s because the water remains nearly as cold as it was in the winter, and crappie won’t be particularly active during the cooler parts of the day.

Crappie fishing tips for spring focus on recommending the early afternoon, particularly when the sun has had a chance to warm up the water, as the best time to get a hook in the water. However, as the spring progresses, you can add early mornings and nights as times to cast a line for crappie.

5. Tackle Recommendations

As the relative inactivity of winter gives way to spring, crappie will be far more focused on feeding. One of the specific ways you can capitalize on that in terms of crappie fishing tips is to try Crappie Nibbles™, a doughy bait scented to attract crappie.

This bait, which also glows in the dark to attract crappie, can simply be attached to your hook. Or, if you like, you can rub some of it on a favorite lure to increase its appeal.

Catching Crappie in the Summer

As spring gives way to summer, crappie will head to deeper water. They’ll be more dispersed, and a bit more difficult to find than in spring. But there are still good strategies for catching crappie in the summer.

crappie fishing tips

6. Head to the Creeks

As summer brings warmer temperatures, crappie will be moving away from spawning areas to deeper water. Among the best crappie fishing tips for early summer is to head to creeks at the point they feed into reservoirs, as that’s where you might find crappie as they begin moving to greater depths.

7. Watch for Crickets

One of the longstanding crappie fishing tips for summertime success is to look and listen for areas where crickets are congregating. Crickets are a favorite food for crappie and other panfish in the summertime.

And while you certainly can use lures for summer crappie fishing, if you find yourself in an area where they are feeding on crickets, you should have some live crickets on hand for baiting your line.

8. When Not to Fish For Crappie in Summer

Crappie tend not to be particularly active during the midday. Just as the hot sun can make it uncomfortable for you to be outside, it warms the water of your favorite fishing spot, making crappie lethargic and forcing them into cooler depths.

That’s why one of the best crappie fishing tips is to plan your summertime crappie fishing for early morning or late afternoon.

9. Tackle Recommendations

Summer, a time when days are longer and you’re likely to have at least some time away from work, is a great time to experiment with the crappie fishing tips you’ve no doubt heard from other anglers.

During your summer outings for crappie fishing, try out a range of lures, and even live worms, to see which brings you the best luck out on the water.

One of the best crappie fishing tips for the summer is to hit the water at night, when crappie are most heavily feeding. To boost your chances, use a glow-in-the dark lure to attract the attention of feeding crappie. And if you try casting a line at night, do so when the water is well-illuminated by moonlight.

Best Crappie Fishing Tips for Fall

Fall is a great time for crappie fishing, because they are going to be feeding heavily in preparation for winter, when food will become much more scarce. As a general rule, you can expect crappie to begin their fall behavior when air temperatures stay consistently below 80 degrees.

best crappie fishing lures

10. Trying Different Depths

Fall is a good time to experiment while crappie fishing. The water temperatures will be fairly consistent across all depths. That means crappie can find food almost anywhere, so if you find yourself not getting any strikes at one particular depth, simply try another one.

11. Know Crappie Fall Migration Patterns

Early in the fall, crappie will be moving from the deep water where they’ve spent much of the summer toward the shallow areas where they can easily feed in preparation for winter. As they get fattened up, they’ll return to deeper water later in the fall.

As a result, one of the best crappie fishing tips for fall is to be prepared to fish all over your favorite lake or pond.

12. When Not to Fish For Crappie in Fall

One of the good things for crappie anglers in the fall, at least in the early part of the season, is that they need not worry about sneaking out of work to go fishing during the middle of the day.

During the early fall, the best times to catch crappie are sunrise and sunset, since that’s when they’ll be eating to bulk up for the winter. So you can go fishing before or after work, and have a decent shot at reeling in a crappie or two.

Later in the fall, fish for crappie at midday and early afternoon. Those will be the warmest parts of the day, when crappie are most active as winter approaches.

13. Tackle Recommendations

The cooler weather in fall is a time to bring out minnow lures. The reason for using minnow-style lures in the fall is that they mimic the baitfish upon which crappie are feeding as they prepare for winter.

As an extra tip, if you use a pull-and-pause retrieval technique, your lure will appear to crappie to be an injured minnow, and thus easy prey for a quick meal.

How to Catch Crappie in the Winter

Crappie routinely are among the most relatively active gamefish during the winter, so it’s never a waste of time to head out to your favorite fishing spot in cold weather. One interesting way to locate crappie in the winter is to watch where waterbirds are feeding, and cast your line in that direction.

best crappie gear

14. Take It Slow and Easy

One of the most important crappie fishing tips for the winter is to present your bait to them slowly. Crappie are somewhat lethargic in winter, and probably won’t strike at a lure or live bait that is moved past them too quickly.

15. When Not to Fish For Crappie in Winter

If you’re not an early riser, or if you like to eat an early dinner, one of the best crappie fishing tips for you is to do a lot of your fishing in the winter.

As we’ve learned, crappie like to be active when the water is warmest, so that means early mornings and the evenings in winter offer poor prospects for catching crappie. Instead, you should do your wintertime crappie fishing in the early afternoon.

But you should know that even during the warmest part of a winter day, crappie will be sluggish, and may not be interested in chasing down your baits or lures.

16. Tackle Recommendations

An ultralight fast-action fishing rod with 2- to 6-pound-test line is a great bet as far as crappie fishing tips for the winter. In terms of what’s at the end of that line, expert crappie fishing tips suggest that tube jigssmall spinnerbaitsjigging spoons, and marabou jigs are good lure choices.

If you prefer live bait, minnows are a fine choice for winter crappie fishing.

Ice Fishing For Crappie

Crappie are a popular target for ice fishing, in part because their schooling behavior means that once you’ve hooked one, you’re virtually assured of bringing more to the surface.

crappie fishing tips

17. Local Knowledge Is Key to Success

If you’re new to ice fishing for crappie, one of the greatest crappie fishing tips to employ will be to talk with anglers familiar with the area to get some guidance as to where you’re likely to find crappie under the ice.

Along those same lines, take some time to compile your own notes as you try ice fishing for crappie, so you can start next winter’s fishing with your own growing bank of local knowledge.

18. Try Your Spring Fishing Spots

As a general rule, a good place to start your ice fishing for crappie is to try some of the same spots you fished in the spring. Another of the best crappie fishing tips for ice fishing is to plan your trip for a relatively warm day, when crappie will be more mobile and likely to strike a lure.

19. Tackle Recommendations

Particularly when you’re ice fishing atop a snow-covered lake or pond, the water below will, of course, be quite dark. That’s why your winter tackle for crappie should include a collection of glow-in-the-dark lures.

You can also try non-luminescent but brightly colored lures for ice fishing for crappie.

More Crappie Fishing Tips

There is a lot of advice out there for crappie fishing, which isn’t surprising given the species’ popularity. But before you hit the water, here are few additional tips as you refine your crappie-fishing knowledge.

20. Hook-Setting Technique

One of the hardest things about crappie fishing is to resist the natural temptation to grab your rod and try to firmly set the hook. Crappies’ mouths are notoriously thin, and any hard pulls to get a hook in them might instead jerk the hook free.

Once you feel a crappie at the end of your line, you should start gently reeling it in. Unlike other game fish, feeling a strike from a crappie is generally an indication that you have hooked it as firmly as possible.

21. Catch-And-Release

Most states have generous daily limits on the number of crappie you can catch, although some do add size limits on the crappie you can keep. Regardless of the number and size of crappie you’re allowed to catch, responsible crappie angling should include a personal catch-and-release ethic.

To ensure crappie populations remain viable, particularly on smaller bodies of water, it’s good to return at least some of the best of your catch to the water. Doing so ensures that you, your fellow anglers, and future anglers, can enjoy bounteous crappie fishing for years to come.

Wrapping up Crappie Fishing Tips for Every Season

A black Crappie.

Now that you have year-round crappie fishing tips, you’re ready to head to your favorite fishing spot whenever you’re in the mood to hook some crappie for fun, or for dinner.

In the meantime, Life in Minnesota offers a full exploration of fishing in the state, so that no matter where you are, or what fish you’re after, you’ll be equipped for success. Check out posts on everything from the best fishing lakes in Minnesota to the baits and lures that work well in the state.